• Fri November 24 2006
  • Posted Nov 24, 2006
Testing her mettle By JOHN MOLSEED, Messenger staff writer For Erin Kersten, this year’s RAGBRAI was only one of many months of training events. Kersten participated in the Florida Ironman Triathlon. To picture doing an Ironman Triathlon, imagine swimming more than two miles, running a full marathon, and doing one-third of RAGBRAI all in one day. The Fort Dodge native and 1999 St. Edmond graduate placed 10th of the 52 women in her age bracket. She completed the whole event Nov. 4 in 11 hours and 21 minutes. ‘‘I had varying expectations from wanting to finish to wanting to actually compete,’’ Kersten said. ‘‘It’s something that you’ve spent eight to 10 months training for so it was sometimes scary that all of your hard work would come down to one day’s performance.’’ A varsity athlete in high school in basketball and volleyball and a two-time state tennis qualifier, Kersten stays active and is a member of the Chicago Triathlon Club. She competed in her first triathlon in 2004 along with her father Fort Dodge attorney, Steve Kersten, and her brother Granger Kersten. She said her family helped motivate her to become a triathlete. ‘‘I got into biking because my parents biked, and I also wanted to be part of the strong tradition of RAGBRAI in Iowa,’’ she said. Kersten said the run was her favorite event, and that the 2.4-mile swim was a bit of a surprise. The Ironman began with a mass start of more than 2,200 swimmers rushing into the Gulf of Mexico ‘‘For the first half mile, I was barely swimming, just getting pushed along in the school of swimmers, trying to avoid getting kicked,’’ she said. Spectators could follow the competitors’ progress live online. Knowing her family was watching her progress pushed Kersten toward the finish line. Most of the people who struggled during the Ironman had trouble during the running portion, she said. Some people were walking or experiencing cramping up toward the end. Kersten pointed to her training as the main reason she exceeded her expectations of finishing within 13 hours. ‘‘There are so many variables that could go right or wrong during a 10-plus-hour race. Flat tires, nutritional problems, weather, the mental challenge etc., so I’m thankful that my training and racing plan fell into place on race day.’’ While she said it took her a few days after the competition to be able to sit or walk normally, Kersten plans to do another Ironman someday, but probably not within the next year. She said she plans to work on improving her time at the Pigman Half-Ironman in Cedar Rapids to improve her overall Ironman time. Before the race, she asked an athlete who had 26 Ironman competitions under his belt if he had advice for someone doing their first ever Ironman. ‘‘Don’t just savor the finish line, savor every minute,’’ he told her. ‘‘I made a conscious effort to think about this during the race and the advice really helped,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a long day out there so I tried to take each event one at a time, thinking about how lucky I am to be able to train and race and enjoy being out there.’’ Contact John Molseed at (515) 573-2141 or

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